The Death of the Blog

Like Dan and Andrew, I found very little validity to the Poetry Foundation’s recent decision to kill its blog in favor of Facebook and Twitter because “The blog as a form has begun to be overtaken by social media like Twitter and Facebook.”

Dan sums up my feelings nicely:

Is more “information” what we really need? Does the rapid-fire posting of ephemera amount to “dynamic discussions” or does it just reduce the discussion of poetry to the same relentless focus on trivia that characterizes the coverage of movies, of celebrity culture in general? What seems to me to be motivating the Harriet change of approach–what seems to be motivating the Twitterization of online discourse in general–is precisely the desire to see what is posted disseminated “far and wide through various status updates, wall postings, and links,” not a concern for the substance of the post. The mere accumulation of friends, followers, and hits, evidence of “interaction,” is the end-in-itself.

The ongoing fetishization of hits and quantifiable information dissemination stats (e.g. Facebook “likes”) is truly counterproductive. Frankly, it’s odd to see genuinely smart and artistic people become so obsessed with these things. (Though with many of these orgs it’s probably fueled in part by grantmakers’ thirst for statistics and reports.)

I’ll readily admit that it’s fun to check stats, and I certainly have a measure of pride that The Quarterly Conversation has consistently expanded its readership over the past few years. But there’s a definite limit to how much attention you should pay to these things. And it’s fairly pointless to make hits and dissemination an end in itself. (In that case, why not just pay some Web-monkey service to deliver a gazillion page-views, or write about porn every week?)

This desire to get more and more social media impressions reminds me more than a little of Wall Street bankers using any means necessary to increase their return on investments quarter after quarter, as if the only measure of success in our society is some mold-like growth wherein a a bank or a website continually colonizes more and more of the universe. That’s not to say that Twitter followers, Facebook fans, hits, etc are entirely irrelevant, but there are far more important measures of success. Instead of pulling in another thousand hits, I’d much prefer to see that an untranslated book we featured is being published in English (as is happening for numerous titles listed in Translate This Book!), or to see the kind of protracted, devoted interest in a great work of fiction that is currently happening with Your Face This Spring.

In my opinion, things like that are far more rewarding than seeing my hit total go up. And those are also the things that are truly going to be helping to promote and perpetuate literary culture.

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Well said. I can udnerstand the fetishization of statistics, but what statistics can’t yet measture is the weight of a link, retweet, “like,” etc. Would 100 “likes” be nice? Of course. But one thoughtful and provocative comment probably has more effect.

And so it begins. This is really my biggest concern with technology and Internet-based things — the increase in often contentless epherma and shifts happening so fast that we’re culturally told to move on before we even figured out how to get the most out of an earlier communication type (or whatever I should be calling these things.)

It’s like the concept of a “critical hit”… sometimes people just want the hit, period. There are ways to figure out the extent to which you’re reaching people without resorting to stats, but they take work to parse, and maybe if you’ve put all that effort into writing or reviewing or blogging or whatever, you don’t want to work that much harder. But it’s like everything else: The easy fix is never as revealing or as satisfying. You have to figure out which one you want, because I don’t think you can have it both ways. Nor does one have to devalue the other.

I think I agree, but since this piece is longer than the 140 characters favored by Twitter, my mind is unable to process the message.

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